National Post (Latest Edition)

MUAH!

Is de­ploy­ing dum­mies the new norm for tv and movie makeouts as the world bat­tles covid?

- Jamie Port­man Entertainment · Movies · Hollywood · Humphrey Bogart · Ingrid Bergman · The Bold and the Beautiful · Godzilla · Gojira · United Kingdom · Guardian Unlimited · Vancouver · Vancouver Island · Los Angeles · Dooley Wilson · Casablanca · Isle of Man · Jesse Metcalfe

“You must re­mem­ber this ... a kiss is just a kiss ...” So sang Doo­ley Wil­son — mem­o­rably — in Casablanca. But was he really telling it as it was when it came to Hol­ly­wood? Not really.

Kiss­ing has of­ten caused prob­lems for the film in­dus­try — which is why the Pro­duc­tion Code of the day de­nied Humphrey Bog­art and In­grid Bergman a pro­longed smooch in their 1942 movie clas­sic. If it’s not the guardians of public mo­ral­ity pe­ri­od­i­cally erupt­ing over lip- to- lip pas­sion on the big screen, it’s apt to be the stars them­selves re­belling against mak­ing on­screen whoopee with some­one they can’t stand.

Now, a new wrin­kle has ar­rived thanks to COVID-19. With film and tele­vi­sion slowly re­turn­ing to pro­duc­tion, an ur­gent ques­tion has sur­faced. Must the kiss be ban­ished be­cause of the need for so­cial dis­tanc­ing? Can true ro­mance, or at least the Hol­ly­wood ver­sion of it, sur­vive the pan­demic? Will au­di­ences — sigh — be able to bear such de­pri­va­tion?

Well, let the tears be dried and the hand- wring­ing end. We have un­der­es­ti­mated the in­dus­try’s gift for in­ge­nu­ity and du­plic­ity. Re­cently, fol­low­ers of The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful were treated to the sight of ac­tor Lawrence Saint-vic­tor mak­ing out with a dummy. That’s how Saint-vic­tor, who plays Carter Wal­ton on the long- run­ning soap opera, achieves in­ti­mate con­tact with Kiara Barnes, who plays Zoe Buck­ing­ham but who on this oc­ca­sion has been re­placed by a man­nequin stand-in.

Pre­dictably, so­cial me­dia is aflame over this. On­line snick­er­ing is con­sid­er­able — after all, even if the dummy is care­fully shot from be­hind un­der con­trolled light­ing con­di­tions, isn’t there a cer­tain rigid­ity ev­i­dent? Or maybe plas­tic­ity is a more ap­pro­pri­ate word if we want to call it for what it is.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, other view­ers are re­cep­tive: after all, ours is a tech­no­log­i­cally tol­er­ant cul­ture in which we’ve been con­di­tioned to the idea of per­form­ers act­ing op­po­site a ten­nis ball that will later turn out to be Godzilla. And the cre­ative forces be­hind The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful are putting a brave face on what they’re do­ing.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing,” pro­ducer Brad Bell told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “We feel al­most like tele­vi­sion pi­o­neers ... be­cause we’re the first ones out, blaz­ing new ways of pro­duc­ing the shows with the cur­rent safety stan­dards, and we’re get­ting the job done.”

Mean­while, the long- run Aus­tralian series Neigh­bours is tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tack. Cast mem­ber Co­lette Mann re­cently re­vealed that when a ro­man­tic clinch is called for, each of the two ac­tors kisses a mirror, after which edit­ing will make it look as though they’re kiss­ing each other.

Over in Bri­tain, the pro­duc­ers of Eas­ten­ders have another so­lu­tion — keep it in the fam­ily. Real- life part­ners of cast mem­bers have been hauled in to act as body dou­bles in the ro­man­tic scenes. The Guardian news­pa­per re­cently gave a dead­pan ex­am­ple of what takes place: “For ex­am­ple, if some­one has to kiss Ian Beale, they’ll ac­tu­ally kiss their hus­band who is made up to look like Ian Beale.”

Of course, any TV or film set cur­rently fea­tures other pan­demic dis­ci­plines rang­ing from reg­u­lar swab tests to daily tem­per­a­ture read­ings.

When Hall­mark re­cently filmed the tele­vi­sion movie Ships in the Night, on Van­cou­ver Is­land, a par­tic­u­larly rig­or­ous pro­to­col was im­posed. Amer­i­can ac­tor Jesse Met­calfe told Va­ri­ety that even be­fore he left Los An­ge­les he had to take a COVID-19 test, and on ar­riv­ing in Canada, he im­me­di­ately went into quar­an­tine for two weeks. But Met­calfe, who first at­tracted at­ten­tion as a lust- in­duc­ing gar­dener on Des­per­ate Housewives, was ac­tu­ally al­lowed a real kiss dur­ing shoot­ing. How­ever it hap­pened un­der rigid con­di­tions.

“We both got COVID tested again. And then we’re us­ing a spe­cial spray on our faces that I guess kills the virus. And we’re also us­ing a spe­cial mouth­wash after the kiss­ing scene. Every­one can have their own opin­ion about that and the ef­fec­tive­ness of that, but there’s def­i­nitely quite a pro­to­col sur­round­ing in­ti­macy when film­ing.”

As for the plas­tic dum­mies and the mirror trickery hap­pen­ing else­where — well, sim­ply see it as part of the new world order. Or as a Guardian pun­dit cheer­fully sees it: “Hey, if it works it works.”

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 ?? Warner Bros. ?? Humphrey Bog­art and In­grid Bergman were granted only a brief kiss in Casablanca to com­ply with the Pro­duc­tion Code of the day. Now, phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing rules are chang­ing the way ac­tors por­tray in­ti­macy
— some shows are en­forc­ing rig­or­ous virus test­ing, while oth­ers are us­ing dum­mies.
Warner Bros. Humphrey Bog­art and In­grid Bergman were granted only a brief kiss in Casablanca to com­ply with the Pro­duc­tion Code of the day. Now, phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing rules are chang­ing the way ac­tors por­tray in­ti­macy — some shows are en­forc­ing rig­or­ous virus test­ing, while oth­ers are us­ing dum­mies.

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